L’Homme De L’Ombre
Plastic Sound Records (CD | LP | DL)
25 February 2022
Marc O’s debut album combines the attitude and bravado of Iggy Pop with the sensuality and sophistication of Serge Gainsbourg and Lou Reed’s penchant for the avant-garde and cultural challenge, says Ian Corbridge.
Music has a unique quality which can both unite disparate groups of people and also challenge the status quo and influence change. L’Homme De L’Ombre does all that and more. L’Homee De L’Ombre (Man Of The Shadows)blends aggressive and powerful textures and melancholic soundscapes to break down language barriers and deliver one of the most powerful, evocative and stunning albums I’ve heard in a very long time.
Many people will suggest that life is nothing without its challenges, and boundaries are there to be broken. Music is no different and it should come as no surprise that every so often an artist comes along and pushes those boundaries. Marc O is one such artist. His debut album, L’Homme De L’Ombre, breaks down some serious boundaries with a powerful and masterful collection of songs sung in his native French language. So if you are ready to confront those subliminal preconceptions, please read on.
I will be the first to admit that foreign languages have never been my thing. I got an O-level in French at school but that did not come easy and was a means to an end. I then reverted to type and followed a typically British cultural approach of expecting everyone to speak as I do. As a consequence, to my own shame, my appreciation of anything outside of my native tongue has been limited. But all that may have changed now Marc O has come into my world. So who is Marc O?
Marc O (Marc Olivier) is an artist steeped in the spirit of glam, punk and rock’n’roll. Having moved from France to London in the 1990s, he absorbed himself in the alternative rock scene as a guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and recording engineer, while also touring Europe and North America with various bands. Notably he was singer and guitarist for Plastic Heroes’ glam-infused 2008 album Escape The Lower End. But there obviously came a point when he needed his own outlet for all the influences and ideas he had absorbed and cultivated, which brings us to his debut album L’Homme De L’Ombre (Man Of The Shadows).
It’s fair to say that the creation of this album has been a rollercoaster ride for Marc O. From the time he first started to nurture his ideas into songs in 2016, not only did he become a father for the first time, but he also had to take a break to have complex surgery after a diagnosis for an aggressive form of cancer. The great news is that the surgery was a success and upon hearing the album you would find it difficult not to conclude that this whole experience contributed significantly to the power and the passion that flows out of the grooves.
None of this should come as any surprise given the powerhouse rhythm section that Marc O recruited with Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks, New York Dolls, Michael Monroe) on bass and Christophe Deschamps (Jean Michel Jarre) on drums. It also includes contributions from friends and associates including Danny Ray on sax and harmonica and bassist Dave Richmond who played with Serge Gainsbourg more than 50 years ago on iconic recordings such as J’Taime…Moi Non Plus. The relevance of the latter becomes evident soon enough.
L’Homme Du Monde (Man Of The World) opens with a fractured rhythm which immediately captures your attention as the song challenges the existence of global economic systems. I am immediately absorbed by the power, feeling and commitment in both the sound and Marc O’s vocals which immediately distract me from the fact that I don’t actually understand the words. The spirit of Iggy Pop is surely lurking here and you quickly understand the meaning of the old adage that music is the silence between the notes.
Both Le Fondu Des Bas-Fonds D’Ecran (Fading Into The Shallow Screen) and Le Dissymetre (Dissymmetry Man) follow with infectious driving rhythms which fuse glam and rock’n’roll in a 21st century world. With narratives which focus on the blurring of the real and virtual world and the dangers which lurk within the subconscious, it’s not hard to imagine that we are in the midst of a very personal story.
Le Test De La Femme A Barbe (Test Of The Bearded Woman) is crawling with the sensuality and emotional depths of Serge Gainsbourg as it explores gender dynamics and the human traits which are common to all people regardless of orientation. The metronomic beat of Les Demodes (The Old Fashioned) has a repetitive melody that will stay with you for a long time as it recognises that sometimes it may be wise to look to the lessons learned from the past to solve present-day problems which otherwise prove difficult to overcome, something perhaps we do not do enough of.
The explosive and powerful punk-infused energy of the songs and the immediacy of Marc O’s vocals have such an immersive quality which continues through the rest of the album as they go on to explore areas such as human prejudice and nationalism. The lyrics were written by Marc O’s brother, author and philosopher Bruno Pons Levy, and I get the feeling that the influence of Lou Reed’s penchant for cultural challenge is never far away.
Closing song and title track L’Homme De L’Ombre is a dark and epic tale of narcissism exploring the notion of ownership and the quest for glory. It’s a majestic way to end the album with Marc O’s aching vocals and the anthemic chorus lines creating such a dramatic backdrop.
As an album with the attitude and bravado of Iggy Pop, the sensuality and sophistication of Serge Gainsbourg and Lous Reed’s penchant for the avant-garde and cultural challenge, Marc O has overcome adversity in a big way and created a body of work which embodies a dramatic fusion of glam, punk and rock’n’roll with an underlying sense of surrealist beauty. The fact that it is sung entirely in French becomes irrelevant as you become immersed in the explosive and emotional soundtrack.
L’Homme De L’Ombre is a powerful and evocative debut album which proves beyond all doubt that music is a language all of its own – it speaks for itself whatever your native tongue. Keith Richards has been quoted as saying: “Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones”. So just listen to this album and embrace that thought.
You can see Marc O live and in conversation at Rough Trade East in London on 14 March 2022, accompanied by Sami Yaffa, Christophe Deschamps and Dave Richmond. Tickets are available here.
You can buy the album here.
All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile.